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Eaten Alive (Blu-ray)

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    Ian Jane
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  • Eaten Alive (Blu-ray)



    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: September 22nd, 2015.
    Director: Tobe Hooper
    Cast: Robert Englund, Marilyn Burns, Carolyn Jones, Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer
    Year: 1976
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    When Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel hit pay dirt in 1974 with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, arguably one of the finest horror movies ever made and certainly one of the most intense, it probably didn't surprise anyone when they teamed up again a few years later. The resulting film, Eaten Alive, also starred Marilyn Burns, who earned her place in horror history with her performance as Sally in the earlier film. Would they be able to create the same kind of magic this second time out? Not really, but Eaten Alive is still pretty enjoyable and it's certainly entertaining.

    When the film begins, Buck (Robert Englund of A Nightmare On Elm Street in a role that obviously inspired Michael Bowen's performance in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1) is raring to do a prostitute named Clara (Roberta Collins of The Witch Who Came From The Sea) where she isn't interested in being done. Not content to take no for an answer, Buck raises a stink until the brothel owner lets him pick two other ladies instead of the one he paid for, and soon Faye is sent packing by Miss Hattie (Carolyn Jones of The Addams Family!), the madam in charge.

    With nothing more than a few dollars loaned to her by a friend, Faye takes shelter at The Starlight Hotel, the only place in town to lodge, which lies deep in the woods away from the rest of town. The peg-legged innkeeper, Judd (Neville Brand of Birdman Of Alcatraz) takes her in after she lies and tells him that she isn't one of the girls from the brothel and it soon becomes obvious that something is a little off with the man when we realize that he's got a giant crocodile living next to his place of business to whom Faye is promptly chopped up and fed to.

    Soon after, a family shows up - Faye (Marilyn Burns), Roy (William Finlay of The Phantom Of The Paradise) and their young kid, Angie (Kyle Richards who played Lindsay Wallace in the first two Halloween films) - looking for shelter for the night. Judd gets them a room but the family dog ends up a snack for Judd's pet. Roy isn't too impressed and so he opts to go kill off the beast himself, but of course, this doesn't work out and he too finds himself turned into croc-chow after Judd makes short work of him. Once he's done with Roy, Judd ties Faye to the best and little Angie hides out under the hotel while Clara's dad, Harvey (Mel Ferrer of Nightmare City) and her sister Libby (Crystin Sinclair of Ruby) show up looking for their late, lamented family member. When know one in town will own up to ever having seen Clara, they bring Sheriff Martin (Stuart Whitman of The Treasure Of The Amazon) in to help them out. Unfortunately for Harvey and Libby, there's only one place in town to stay… The Starlight Motel!

    Eaten Alive is a weird film. While it isn't particularly frightening it does have a few disturbing moments and a completely sleazy atmosphere from start to finish makes it eerie enough even when it probably shouldn't be, given that this is primarily a film about a crazy guy and his pet crocodile. This earned the film a spot on the UK's infamous Video Nasties list where it was released as Death Trap and trimmed by a few seconds until it was eventually released uncut in 2000. Neville Brand is pretty manic in his performance, coming close to going over the top in a few spots and bringing a really strange intensity to the role that makes it a little more frightening than one might expect. Though the film never comes close to matching the intensity and sheer balls-to-the-wall terror that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is so well known for it does have a similarly unseemly atmosphere to it that works really well.

    Also worth noting about the film is the lighting used for any scenes shot at or around the hotel (which makes up the bulk of the movie). Hooper used cinematographer Robert Caramico, the same man who gave Lemora: A Child's Tale Of The Supernatural its distinct visuals and who here also employs some fantastic colored lighting gels to unusually appealing effect. Though the film is rough looking, Caramico paints it with bright reds and eerie, swampy looking greens to really bring an almost alien feel to these scenes. The hotel and the surrounding foliage and swamp is obviously a set, but that just adds to the odd ambience created for the film.

    The biggest flaw in the film is the crocodile itself, which for certain scenes (the dog eating scene for one), is obviously fake. This takes some of the shock out of the scenes and it dampens things quite a bit. Other than that, however, you're left with a really sleazy movie that makes good use of its rather eclectic ensemble cast. The film reads like a veritable who's who of seventies drive-in movies and that, coupled with the weirdness factor, makes Eaten Alive well worth seeing, even if it isn't really a classic in the true sense of the word.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Eaten Alive arrives on Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 in a new 2k scan of the original camera negative presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The improvement here over the already great looking Dark Sky Films DVD release from years back is substantial, particularly when it comes to color reproduction. The lighting and filters used to give the movie its unique look really shine here, but things never look overdone or too saturated. Detail is also vastly improved here while black levels look excellent. There's good depth and texture throughout the presentation and there are no noticeable issues with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts.

    Audio options are limited to an LPCM Mono track, in the film's native English. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Audio quality is pretty solid here too. Dialogue is always easy to understand and there's a bit more depth and range to the score when you compare it to the previous DVD release. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are nicely balanced.

    Extras start off with a commentary track (originally included on the Dark Sky Films DVD) that features insight from the film's co-writer and producer Mardi Rustam, make-up artist Craig Reardon and performers Roberta Collins, William Finley, and Kyle Richards. Each of the participants was recorded separately and the track was edited together from the various interviews so don't expect a lot of scene specific material (though portions of the performers' discussion is edited to match scenes they appear in). That being said, some of what we learn here is pretty interesting as those involved cover shooting the film on a studio lot, some of the effects work, what it was like working with Tobe Hooper and how they feel about the movie looking back on it years later. Finley is the most animated of the group, and his memory of the time he spent on the set is as sharp as ever and his comments as to how he got into character are quite amusing.

    Also carried over from the Dark Sky Films disc are two featurettes, the first of which is a fifteen minute interview with Robert Englund entitled My Name Is Buck… which gives the man a chance to talk about his on-set experiences and what it was like working with Tobe Hooper and a few of his co-stars. He covers his career in a bit of detail as well and talks about how he ended up on the film in the first place, as it was an early part for him. The second featurette is The Butcher of Elmendorf: The Legend of Joe Ball which runs for just over twenty-three minutes in length and covers Joe Ball, a serial killer who ran rampant in the 1930s feeding various people to his own pet crocodiles. The Gator Creator, which we've also seen before, is a twenty-minute archival interview with Hooper. Here he speaks about how he came on board to direct the film, casting the picture, the locations, the effects and quite a bit more. 5ive Minutes with Marilyn Burns is, as you could probably guess, a five minute interview with Burns. Here the late actress appears keen to talk about her experiences working on the film, reuniting with Hooper (they did, after all, work on Texas Chain Saw Massacre together) and a fair bit more. It's short but sweet. Also carried over here is the twenty-three minute The Butcher of Elmendorf: The Legend of Joe Ball, which is basically a true crime documentary about a man who murdered people and, yes, fed them to crocodiles.

    New to this disc is Blood On The Bayou, a brand new interview with Tobe Hooper in which he spends about fourteen minutes talking about his work on Eaten Alive. He talks about the film's characters, his attempts at creating a sort of alternate reality where the movie takes place and his sparring with the film's producer. Actress Janus Blythe shows up in the twelve minute long
    Gator Bait featurette. She talks about how and why she was cast in the movie, who really directed the scenes she shows up in, and other projects that she's been involved with (including a public access television show!). Monsters and Metaphors is a brand new eleven minute interview with makeup artist Craig Reardon who talks about growing up as a monster movie fan and how that led to his interest in doing effects work. He then talks about his experiences working on Eaten Alive and his thoughts on the different people he collaborated with on the project.

    Rounding out the extras are an optional introduction to the movie from Hooper, some original theatrical trailers for the film under its various alternate titles (Eaten Alive, Death Trap, Starlight Slaughter and Horror Hotel), a selection of TV and radio spots, some alternate credits, a behind the scenes still gallery, a collection of audience comment cards, a still gallery of promotional material, menus and chapter selections.

    The Final Word:

    Eaten Alive holds up well and remains a pretty unique experience, a completely bizarre but wholly entertaining horror picture with a vein of dark humor running straight through it. The movie makes great use of a fantastic cast and it has a really distinct and effective look to it as well. The Blu-ray release from Arrow improves on past releases in every way by offering up the picture in excellent condition and with some new (and very interesting) extra features as well. A great package overall and one very easy to recommend.
    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





















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